The premier sports club in East Anglia, Ipswich Sports Club is owned and run by its members and provides first-class sporting facilities for tennis, squash, racketball and hockey plus a well-appointed gym and studio.
Renowned for its friendly atmosphere the club president is no less than George Burley, the former Scotland international footballer and Ipswich Town legend who once almost broke the ‘Old Firm’ domination of Scottish football when he managed Heart of Midlothian.
Yet while recovering from the Covid pandemic, which sent many renowned sporting institutions to the wall, it became clear that something was needed to bring the bounce back.
Cheered on by an enthusiastic knot of occasional players who had ‘padeled’ on holiday the East Anglian club decided to partner with us. Game4Padel installed a pop-up court at the club in April 2022, to grow membership while we applied for planning permission for permanent canopied courts.
Reflecting on all of this Mark Cracknell, the club treasurer and now a proudly qualified Padelmba CPC (Certified Padel Coach), told the tale: “We started with no one and nothing (no padel members and no padel courts) and maybe a core of 20 people who had played elsewhere or were interested in playing and now we have around 90 regular players and many more who have come to find out about padel.
“We are open 7am to 10pm at night and we aren’t covered and when you factor in bad weather which hits utilisation quite severely, really it is a very positive picture at Ipswich in terms of demand for padel. Right now we have one pop-up court but we are due to have four permanent canopied courts built. We are excited about the future.
“The important thing about padel is the social side and getting people out on court. I reckon 50 percent of the people we have signed up and playing have never been on a tennis court and have different sporting backgrounds – but they love padel!
All of which begs the question: ‘Why did Ipswich Sports Club partner with Game4Padel?’
Over to you Mark: “We had recently sold a piece of land which was an old hockey facility and we wanted to reinvest. We have tennis, squash, gym, hockey and studio classes and we just felt that padel would be a natural fit.
“From then we started to look at whether we built it ourselves or worked with a third party. The cost of building ourselves was prohibitive, and then there was the organisation and running of the courts and the financial risk associated with all of that.
“We had a look at who we could partner with and although we spoke with a couple of organisations Game4Padel were by far and away the most professional and we signed the deal in February last year. Although other court manufacturers we spoke to had money behind them, it felt to me like they didn’t necessarily have the operational team to put it together.
“Also Game4Padel’s understanding of padel itself and how to promote and operate it was huge for me and all these things made it an easy choice in the end for us at Ipswich.
Yet as Mark revealed there are always obstacles to overcome before Mr Blue Sky can smile down on the padel court – even in East Anglia.
“The difficult bit has been getting planning permission and that has created a bit of a delay but now we have that and are awaiting a building certificate. Also the surface we are dealing with is very clay dense and there is a slight issue with water run off which is holding things up and we also need spaces for a car park so there are issues unrelated to padel which are holding us up,” admitted Mark.
Before adding: “But we are really looking forward to building our four canopied courts and hugely excited about the impact they will have.”
A man who is totally committed to his own personal padel journey and doing the best he can to help others get the best out of our sport Mark has also qualified as a Padelmba CPC coach thanks to our exclusive partnership with the world’s leading padel coaching forum.
It is something he admits has literally been a game-changer: “I had never actually coached padel before, although I had coached football in the past. And I had only been playing padel for five months, so the Padelmba CPC course gave me the confidence to coach and it was just a real eye-opener.
“In terms of the understanding it gave me of padel and of getting people’s technique correct and also the educational materials it provided – qualifying as a CPC coach just gave me so much confidence to run sessions.
“As we only have one court at present, I take four players most times and maybe six at a push and we run eight sessions per week for different levels and they have been very well received. That has all been down to what I learned from the CPC course, really it was a revelation.”